Wednesday, 23 Sep 2020

Slovak court acquits businessman in journalist's murder; one other defendant guilty

PEZINOK, SLOVAKIA (REUTERS, AFP) – A Slovak court ruled on Thursday (Sept 3) that an influential businessman was not guilty in the case of the murder of investigative journalist Jan Kuciak, the presiding judge said.

The court found one other defendant guilty of taking part in the murder, but did not find evidence that the hit was ordered by businessman Marian Kocner.

The multi-millionaire and two suspected accomplices were facing up to 25 years in prison for the February 2018 killings of Mr Kuciak and his fiancee Martina Kusnirova.

Both 27, they were gunned down at home after Mr Kuciak wrote several stories on graft and the shady dealings of the high-powered entrepreneur with ties to senior government politicians.

The double murder plunged the country of 5.4 million people into crisis and triggered the largest demonstrations seen since the fall of communism.

Then-premier Robert Fico was forced to resign in March 2018 and was replaced by his populist left Smer-SD party deputy Peter Pellegrini. But the opposition won this year’s general election, paving the way for a new centre-right government led by Igor Matovic from the ant-graft OLaNO party.

“The deaths of Jan Kuciak and Martina Kusnirova have opened the eyes of the Slovak people,” Mr Matovic told AFP in February.

The murdered couple’s legal representative in the trial, former justice minister Daniel Lipsic, echoed that sentiment, saying that Slovakia was apathetic before the double murder.

“The killings have roused Slovakia,” Mr Lipsic told AFP.

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